The Oregon State Sheriffs’ Association has been asked to investigate the conduct of Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer.
Association President Brian Wolfe, the sheriff of Malheur County, said, at the request of citizens, an executive board would be looking into Palmer’s conduct regarding the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to determine whether to launch an official investigation.
“What the association will do is look at all the facts: We’ll gather evidence and information, and then if we think there is a violation of the state sheriffs’ (association) bylaws or ethics, then we would take whatever would be the appropriate action,” he said. “We would just want to make sure, first of all, that sheriffs in Oregon are following the law and following their oath.”
All sheriffs in Oregon, he said, vow to uphold both the state and federal Constitution. He said the association has bylaws in effect that allow the expulsion of a member for misconduct, though he is not aware of any members being removed in the past. Currently, he said, all 36 Oregon sheriffs are members.
Expulsion is the most severe punishment available to the association, Wolfe said. If a criminal investigation was warranted, he said, it would be handled by a law enforcement agency, not the association.
Wolfe said he has not seen evidence indicating misconduct by Palmer and that he would need to see hard facts before commenting further.
“Each sheriff has their unique personalities and interests,” he said. “We always support the First Amendment, the freedom of speech and all that, as long as it doesn’t violate the ethics or laws.”
In John Day Jan. 12, Palmer met with three people who participated in the occupation of the refuge, including Ryan Payne and Jon Ritzheimer, according to Dave Traylor and Jim Sproul who were also at the meeting. Palmer said he was unaware the occupiers would be at the lunch meeting, but he followed them and others to another location to continue the meeting after leaving the restaurant.
Payne, Ritzheimer and 14 others have since been indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count each of conspiring to impede federal employees.
Palmer was also at the John Day Senior Center Jan. 26 where at least Payne was expected to speak. Palmer left the center after learning the leaders of the refuge occupation had been arrested en route.
According to a letter to the editor from his wife, RoseAnn, the sheriff only planned to address the crowd at the senior center for a few minutes to clear up false allegations that he had met with occupation leaders Ammon Bundy and LaVoy Finicum and that he set up the meeting at the center. Palmer has refused to speak to the Blue Mountain Eagle since that night.
The state sheriff’s association issued a statement last week condemning the actions of those who broke into the Malheur refuge and encouraged others “to take up arms” against the government. The statement says the country was founded with three branches of government — legislative, judicial and executive — and sheriffs are part of the executive branch:
“We are a nation of laws, and the executive branch cannot override the laws passed by the legislative branch, nor can we ignore the clear guidance of the judicial branch. There is a process for changing the laws of our great nation and for amending our Constitution, and that process does not involve the armed takeover of government facilities and disruption of an entire community.”
The statement says the association supports the right of the people to challenge the government to make change but does not “agree with or support any citizen or elected official who would advocate for change in a manner that includes illegal action, threats of violence, or violence against any citizen of the United States.”